ABBA's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

9 September 2021, 13:47

ABBA
ABBA. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

To celebrate their triumphant return, we round up the ten very best ABBA songs.

There have been unlikely pop reunions before, but none as quirky as ABBA's long, long-awaited comeback.

After teasing the release of new material for literally years, when it finally came we got two top-notch songs along with the promise of a full ABBA Voyage album and unique "live" experience featuring a motion-captured old ABBA performing as their younger selves.

QUIZ: How well do you know ABBA's song lyrics?

To celebrate all things Agnetha , Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid, we've rounded up their ten very best songs. ABBA Platinum, if you will.

Restricting ourselves to just ten tracks has meant some brutal omissions (No 'Fernando', 'Chiquitita' or 'Voulez-Vous', for starters), but we hope you'll find it in your hearts to forgive us once you've played through our all-killer, no-filler list.

  1. Thank You For The Music

    Lifted from 1977's ABBA: The Movie (and its effective soundtrack ABBA: The Album), 'Thank You For The Music' is a love letter to the power of a beautiful song, and a beautiful voice.

    "Who found out that nothing can capture a heart / Like a melody can? / Well, whoever it was, I'm a fan" – you can't really put it better than that.

    A hit in Europe on its release, it only came out in a single in the UK in 1983, by which time ABBA were fast fading into memory.

  2. Don't Shut Me Down

    After the sniffiness of the late '80s and '90s from some critics towards ABBA in their absence, their star only rose and rose in the '00s and '10s to the point that their eventual comeback was one of the biggest pop events in recent memory.

    Their (sort of) live show would always grab attention, but the question was whether or not they could actually still do it in the studio.

    Leaning heavily on their history, 'I Still Have Faith In You' showed a gentle beauty, but it was this upbeat joint lead single that really showed that the foursome somehow hadn't missed a beat in the last 40 years.

  3. Money, Money, Money

    Taken from fourth album Arrival, the delightfully OTT kitchen sink production of 'Money Money Money' puts it up there with Pink Floyd's 'Money', Barrett Strong's 'Money (That's What I Want)' and the Pet Shop Boys' 'Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)' as the ultimate pop song about how we all need cold, hard, cash.

  4. SOS

    A massive hit from the group's third album ABBA, 'SOS' is one of the best examples of how ABBA could mash up twisting, turning happy/sad melodies with lyrics of longing and heartbreak (Whatever happened to our love? I wish I understood"), with Agnetha's vocals just on the right side of absolute hysteria.

  5. Mamma Mia

    One of ABBA's very best-known songs, 'Mamma Mia' ended up lending its name to the 1999 musical (and the 2008 film based on it, AND the 2018 sequel).

    A stone-cold classic, the song gave the group their first UK number one since the Eurovision Song Contest helped propel 'Waterloo' there a year earlier.

    The last track recorded for the ABBA album, incredibly the band initially weren't minded to release it as a single and had even offered it to Brotherhood of Man who (even more incredibly) turned it down.

  6. Knowing Me, Knowing You

    A-haaaaaaah. A song so perfectly-constructed it's easily survived its appropriation by Alan Partridge.

    Anni-Frid took the lead on the last single from Arrival, which is one of their first and very best break-up songs ("Here is where the story ends / This is goodbye").

    It got to number one in the UK and top 20 in the US, and was a massive hit all over Europe, too.

  7. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

    ABBA are a much better albums band than they're given credit for, with Arrival and The Visitors easily rubbing shoulders with the best of their years.

    That said, they could always, always pull out a perfect single whenever they fancied, and maybe the best example is the standalone 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)'.

    They recorded it in August 1979 when they wanted something to promote Greatest Hits Vol. 2 a couple of months later and it more than did the trick, being a layered discopop mini-masterpiece, led by the then-futuristic sound of the ARP Odyssey synthesizer.

  8. The Winner Takes It All

    Agnetha took the lead on maybe ABBA's grandest-sounding ballad. Yet another break-up song, Björn has been at pains to stress that the actual content of the song is fictional and not about his and Agnetha's real-life divorce.

    That said, the words poured out of him in an hour-long writing session when he was drunk on whisky, and Agnetha apparently welled upon reading them, and we can't blame her.

    It was the band's EIGHTH number one single in the UK, and at number 8 was the band's final top 10 hit in the US (until their comeback?).

  9. Waterloo

    The pleasure from so many ABBA lyrics comes from how immediate, obvious and unguarded they are, but they also had the wit and weirdness for some deliciously odd turns of phrase and conceits, too.

    That was arguably most true of 'Waterloo'. One of their very catchiest songs, it compares a woman surrendering to her love for a man to, er, Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Because, why not?

    ABBA had tried (and failed) to represent Sweden at Eurovision in 1973, with their 'Ring Ring' finishing third in the country's national contest. The nation didn't make the same mistake twice, and 'Waterloo' stormed the 1974 Melodifestivalen and romped to victory in that year's international contest.

    The Eurovision success helped the song on its way to becoming a massive hit around the world, not that it needed it anyway.

  10. Dancing Queen

    So many ABBA songs were vying for the top spot, but in the end 'Dancing Queen' just edged the rest for pure pop perfection.

    It was a number one hit nearly everywhere around the world, including not just the UK but also the US (their only number one there), and it was the lead single from their 1976 masterpiece Arrival.

    A song that perfectly captures that youthful mix of loving music, and just as importantly of loving love. It embodies the dizzy hope, fear and expectation of putting on your dancing shoes and going out to meet someone (maybe the one) and the belief that the power of music will take you through it all.